What is a good friend? One that won’t let you stumble in the wrong direction, and instead gives you a chance to become a better you.
So–a good friend of mine pointed me at some issues with the last chapter, and I got to fix them. I really feel that makes the whole chapter much better. Thank you, Nat, I really appreciate it ❤
If you care to read Chapter 19 Part 2 again to see what was changed, you’re welcome to do so! If not that’s okay as well, I’ve got a new one for you 😉
Worlds Rising: Rebellion
Chapter 20 Part 1
Cole sat on the edge of the waterfall, his legs dangling, and took a few deep breaths. Then he jumped. He hit the water feet-first with a splash, water spraying up–and was gone. Abbida waited anxiously, silently counting the seconds he stayed under. What took so long? At last his head burst through the surface, and he gasped for air. Abbida exhaled just as heartfelt, only now realizing she had held her own breath all this time.
“Damn, it’s cold!” Cole cried, teeth chattering. He took several more deep breaths and dived, this time head-first. His feet came up, and with a powerful strike of his legs he vanished from sight.
Again Abbida counted her heartbeats, though they came too fast to actually measure the time passing. How long had he been under? The lifeline was all the way rolled out by now. The waterhole couldn’t be that deep! Had he found a passage and followed in? Could he stay down this long? Biting her lips, she barely kept from pacing around. She should have gone instead! Cole was a good swimmer, but she was much better equipped for a long dive than anyone.
Next to her, Lian peered down into the water hole with a concerned look on her face as well. Even Li Xiao stepped closer, forgetting his gruff attitude. Cole must have been down there longer than two minutes already. Could he really hold his breath this long? He might be in trouble!
“I’m going after him!”
She unbuttoned her shirt and was going to take it off, when Cole came up with a splash, spluttering and thrashing about, waves sloshing around him. Everybody started calling to him at once, but he just coughed, treading water and gasping for air. Finally, his breathing became less frantic, and he looked up, waving for them to reel him in.
Li Xiao reached for the coil before Abbida could. He braced his legs against a boulder, pressed a button and the rope started reeling back into the device with a whirring sound. Unable to wait, Abbida grabbed hold of the rope to help, but the thin coil cut into her palms so she let go again.
For the last stretch Li Xiao lay down on his stomach, leaned over the edge and grabbed Cole by the wrists. Cole scrambled to get his elbows over the edge and hurtle a leg up. Finally, he managed to pull himself over and then just lay there, staring at the ceiling, panting.
Nobody said anything until he sat up and looked Li Xiao in the eye, “Thanks, dude.”
He gave him a dripping wet pat. Startled, Li Xiao looked at his shoulder, where the water dripped off his uniform without leaving so much as a stain. He furrowed his brow as if needing to process what just happened. With a wry smile, Cole blinked away water that was running from his hair into his eyes and shook himself, spraying droplets all over the place.
Rubbing his goosebumps he got on his feet, and Abbida handed him his satchel with his clothes. “I wish we had a towel so you could dry up.”
“Aw, I’m a tough cookie,” he said, tugging his clothes out.
“So, what’s down there?”
“Couldn’t see a thing,” he grunted, struggling to pull his pants over his damp skin. “Dark as a buffalo’s butt. Had to grope for my way. Which, let me tell you, isn’t all that easy with fingers going numb. Have I mentioned it’s damned cold down there?”
He slipped back into his shirts and struggled with the buttons. Abbida bit back an impatient comment.
“I did eventually find a passage,” he said, stepping into one boot and tying it up. “Wide enough to swim through. Leads to a cavern on the other side, at least as big as this one, and…”
He reached for his second boot and, looking up, his gaze caught on her chest. Only then Abbida remembered she had forgotten to button her own shirt back up! Burning heat rushed up her cheeks, and she quickly turned away to fix that mess.
“… and the air is much better on the other side, as well” Cole continued, as if nothing had happened. When she looked over her shoulder, though, she could tell he was stifling a grin. Behind them, Li Xiao cleared his throat, and she whirled around.
“You’re not suggesting we all dive through and advance further into this mountain, are you now?” he said, frowning.
Crossing her arms over her chest, Abbida snapped, “That’s exactly what he’s suggesting!”
“I’m not sure I can make it,” Lian said, wheezing again, and Li Xiao nodded sharply.
“Not with those injuries. She’s barely able to walk on her own, and there is hardly enough air to breathe as it is.” He wrinkled his nose.
Cole waved Abbida aside. “Can I speak to you in private?”
Li Xiao looked from him to her, made a face and turned away, joining Lian at the edge of the waterhole. Side by side they peered down, looking strangely comfortable around each other, given the circumstances.
In a conscious effort, Abbida pulled her attention away. “What’s the deal?”
“You’ll have to go first,” Cole said, raking his fingers through his wet hair. His lips were still blue, but at least he’d stopped shivering and some color was returning to his face. His gaze drifted to where Lian and Li Xiao seemed to be arguing quietly among themselves, with Lian shaking her head as if rejecting a proposal.
“Between the four of us she is the weakest,” Cole said. “She’ll need your help. Do you think that’ll work? You know, with your skin breathing thing?”
He nodded at her arms, which were emanating a faint green sheen by now.
Hastily she pulled her sleeves down. “How would I know? I’ve never tried anything like that.”
Actually, she did recall playing around with her sister Latisha when they had been little. Both of them had always been able to stay under water longer than any of the other kids, which had been the cause of much envy, especially from boys. At a certain age, they had experimented with their bodies as all children would, and found that they could increase the time under water if they hugged each other tight. After the invasion, though, everything had changed, and she’d forgotten all about it.
Nobody knew how it really worked. Mother Marja, the teacher, had babbled something about ‘photosynthesis’. A word that sounded so funny that Abbida instantly took a liking to it. Normally, only plants did that. They converted water, light and carbon dioxide into nutrients and gave off oxygen. It had to do with the chlorophyll that made the leaves green. Marja assumed Latisha’s and Abbida’s greenish-brown skin was responsible for their extended air supply under water. Though there was nothing to prove it, Abbida had always liked the idea.
“Let’s just try it,” she said. “Not like we have any other choice.”
“Cool.” He pulled the gun from his satchel and hung it over his shoulder. “I’ll buy you some time. The Guard can’t be far behind now.”
“Wait–what? What are you doing?” She held him back.
“Who me? Nothing rash. Did you think I was going to throw myself into the line of fire?” He laughed, but the subtle twitching in the corner of his eye gave him away. Oh, she knew him well. He was going to buy them time by all means, no matter the consequences.
“Just don’t do anything stupid, okay? You’re my teacher after all. My role model!”
“Aw, and here I thought I was the dream of your sleepless nights.”
She slapped his arm. “Well, you are my best friend. I need you!”
“You will never lose me, silly.”
Although he smiled, there was an earnestness in his eyes, that almost broke her inside. Feeling overwhelmed, she threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. He hugged her back, and she knew he understood her perfectly.
Into her ear he whispered, “Listen, kiddo, I don’t actually believe he’s only doing that out of curiosity.”
“What?” She almost choked.
He lifted an eyebrow and nodded to were Li Xiao stood. “Just a hunch.”
Heat rose in her cheeks, and she glanced in the indicated direction. But for once, Li Xiao wasn’t looking at her at all. He was still quietly talking to Lian.
It did seem like they were of different opinion, but the scene looked weirdly peaceful. She wondered if they had known each other before. Possibly, since Lian had worked for his family before. And yet, she had not hesitated to aim her gun at him when she thought it necessary and even hit him in the face, leaving a cut and a bruise on his upper lip. Strangely enough, he didn’t seem to hold that against her. As if he’d expected nothing else in this situation. What a weird people.
Cole patted her back and jerked his head towards the way they had come from. “I’ll be back there, keeping an eye out. You go ahead and tell them how we do it.”
~ to be continued! ~
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